Wylie swimmer Justin Larum often needs a little help from his teammates to get through a swim meet.
And his teammates are more than happy to oblige.
Justin’s legs lock up during extreme physical exertion, and although he can finish races with just his arms, he cannot get out of the pool on his own.
That’s where his teammates jump into action.
“Every time before I swim, they see if someone is available to help me,” Justin said. “They come and force my legs to move. All the girls come and check on me. You’ve never seen a team come together more.”
His mother, Sheri, said she has been so impressed with the way the team has rallied around Justin.
“They treat each other like brothers,” she said. “They take care of him. They take care of me too. They assure me he’s OK. Without them, Justin couldn’t swim.”
Justin grew up playing soccer and ran track and played football in Junior High at Wylie. His family moved for a year, and it was at his new school in Lindale that his problem first occurred.
“The first time it happened, we just finished soccer practice,” he said. “My legs locked up, and I fell over. I just thought it was really bad cramps.”
But it continued to happen, and the Larums began a journey from doctor after doctor after doctor in an attempt to find out why.
“It’s been two years now of us trying to get a diagnosis,” Sheri said. “Every doctor we’ve seen really has no ideas. We know a lot of what it’s not.”
The Larums only spent a year in East Texas before returning home to Wylie. Justin was forced to quit soccer and football because of concussions, but was planning to continue track.
His new condition made that impossible.
“What they are calling it is muscular seizures,” he said. “I have to be pushing myself. My legs lock up, and I can’t move them. It feels like the worst cramps you’ve ever had times five – every muscle in both legs.”
Justin’s friends at Wylie suggested he join the swim team, and he decided to give it a try. He swam with his friends in the summer and had no problems, so he was hopeful that swimming would be the sport for him. But when practices started in the fall, the seizures returned.
“I almost quit,” Justin said. “The feeling of competing is what’s really kept me going. I’ve always been into athletics. Sports have always been a part of my life – a part of my identity.”
Thanks to his teammates, he was able to continue swimming. His friends quickly came up with a routine to help him when a seizure occurred in a race. They even practiced how to get him out of the pool, and what they would do to help him.
“Now we have it perfect,” said Justin Calamlam, a senior on the team. “He’s always able to finish; he’s really strong. But normally, we have to help him get out of the pool. He always has a smile on his face.”
Calamlam said he was surprised at first that Justin continued to swim with his condition.
“At first, I was questioning him – why is he going to swim if it is going to cause him so much pain?” Calamlam said. “He’s really brave and courageous to do so.”
Now, the team is just happy to have Justin as part of the group. Rallying around him has really brought the swimmers closer as a team.
“I feel like everybody being able to help him and encourage him, it really brings us closer together,” Calamlam said. “We would not be as close as we are without Justin here.’
He said Justin is also one of the fastest swimmers, which helps the team. Justin was part of several relay teams that advanced to the regional swim meet after finishing in the top six at district. (Look for the district and regional results on WylieGrowl.com after the regional meet in early February.)
Justin’s condition often keeps him from swimming at his best speeds, but with or without the use of his legs, he continues to compete.
“He swims short distances – 50 meters or 100 meters,” Sheri said. “He is always able to make it through the race. He can just pull through it with his arms. He’s very strong, and he can pull without kicking.”
“He gets upset because he is so competitive,” his mom said. “It’s really frustrating to him. But he refuses to let it stop him.”